Child custody and visitation are probably the most emotionally-charged aspects of a divorce for most splitting parents. State laws favor single mothers in child custody matters and automatically award custody to them. This may seem unfair to most fathers who want primary physical (if not legal, too) custody of their children. Fathers are not without remedies, though.
What Can Fathers Do to Protect Custody Rights?
If a father’s visitation and/or relationship with his children is hampered or inhibited by the children’s mother and the level of interference is unreasonable, the father has remedies available to him to address the situation. These are some of the primary remedies available to fathers seeking to protect their custody rights:
- Seek court enforcement of existing custody and visitation schedule order. Most parties’ visitation schedule and custody arrangement is incorporated into a final order that is entered by the family court. So, if a mother interferes with the visitation schedule and violates terms of the court order, she has breached her legal duty to adhere to the order and its terms and can be found in contempt of court. A show cause hearing may be held, in which the mother must appear in court to explain her behavior. The court could sanction her with lost time with her kids, another form of non-monetary penalty or a monetary penalty.
- Seek court enforcement of divorce decree and parenting agreement. Besides the visitation schedule and custody order, a father can find protection of his rights with regard to his children in the couple’s divorce decree and in any parenting agreement. These documents typically outline the father’s rights.
- Seek an injunction from the court. If visitation rights are consistently violated by the mother’s conduct, then the father can seek an injunction from the court. The purpose of the injunction is to prevent the mother from moving away with the kids, traveling with them or otherwise impeding the father’s court-ordered visitation schedule with the kids.
- Contact the local police. The local police or sheriff’s department may also be contacted if a mother threatens, inhibits or otherwise disturbs a father’s visitation schedule with his children.
- Return to court to seek modification to custody and visitation order(s). Finally, fathers may also go back to court and petition for a revisiting of the custody and/or visitation schedule. Specifically, a father can seek a modification to the visitation order to obtain more time with his kids, visits at different times of day or on different days of the week. Similarly, a father can seek modification to the custody order, as well.